Ann Arbor CRC a ‘Shelter in Place’ Site for Men Without Housing

Men sheltering in place at Ann Arbor CRC left their thanks on two canvases to hang in the church.
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Men who use the Delonis Center shelter provided by the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, Mich., received an extended welcome at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church this spring and summer. The church is one of several congregations to host a rotating additional shelter in winter months to give men who are living without homes a warm place to sleep. Local churches “volunteer to host a group of 20-25 for a week at a time. They usually spend from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in the churches, and are brought to downtown Ann Arbor during the day,” said Rachel Bush, a deacon at Ann Arbor CRC, who shared a thank-you from the men with the congregation. Ann Arbor usually offers two different weeks over the winter.

In 2020, Ann Arbor CRC welcomed a new group on March 23, but instead of staying for a week, the men remained in the church building for months.
“This year, our second week happened to fall right during the time that (Michigan) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer first gave the ‘stay-at-home’ order, and we were asked to consider allowing the men we were hosting to stay longer so they could also shelter in place,” said Rachel Redder, Ann Arbor CRC's director of communication and community engagement.  

Due to space restrictions and confirmed cases of COVID-19 (the disease caused by a novel coronavirus spreading throughout the world) the Delonis shelter had to relocate participants, Redder said.     

The men stayed throughout the church in classrooms. The congregation provided meals and support as needed. Knox Presbyterian church, Ann Arbor Christian School, and supporters from across the U.S. played a major role in providing financial support. Funds raised were used for food, socks, clothing, and toiletries. As a result, “the men staying at our church have responded with a desire to show their gratitude through service to our church—preparing our church garden for spring planting, cleaning up the grounds, fixing and refinishing a picnic table,” Redder said. They took pride in cleaning and established a group cleaning schedule. 

The long extension of welcome had other benefits. “The stability of remaining in one location all day for so many weeks means that the Delonis staff and case workers have been able to work more closely with these men on progressing through goals set up for each person,”  Bush wrote in a May 15 update on Ann Arbor CRC’s website. The men were able to work on “goals to get better treat(ment) ... for mental health issues; goals to work on paperwork for social security benefits; goals to get out job applications or even finish high school; goals to secure permanent housing.”

The men stayed at Ann Arbor CRC for a total of 12 weeks. A May 22 church council leadership team update said, “We are thankful for everyone that has contributed in some way, large or small, to this expression of Christian hospitality. We are also, in coordination with the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, working on a plan to help our guests transition to living outside of our building in the most loving and supportive way possible.”

About the Author

Kimberly Simpson is a graduate (BA Religion, English) of Redeemer University College. She lives in Ontario.

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